Hank Ballard, a member
of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the composer of songs like The
Twist is dead.
Ballard, who also introduced the dance associated with his song, became a
living legend in Rock and Rhythm and Blues. Along with his group, The Midnighters,
Ballard recorded megahits like Sexy Ways, Work With Me
Annie, and Annie Had A Baby. Ballards career spanned
decades and preceded other icons like Elvis Presley who often said his music
and style were greatly influenced by the singer-composer.
Hank Ballard and The Midnighters performed before well over a million people
according to those who compile such statistics and his concerts ranged from
football stadiums to southern fraternity houses on college campuses.
They were once the homecoming dance band at Florida State University in Tallahassee.
I was there, and I was instrumental as a member of the Homecoming entertainment
committee in Ballards selection. I take pride even today that I was
able to convince faculty members that The Midnighters would be more appropriate
than Woody Herman for alumni enjoyment. This was during the heyday of racial
segregation, and Hank Ballards raunchy, sex-driven lyrics and an auditorium
packed with deliriously intoxicated kids doing the twist caused some well-founded
suspicion from university officials about my motives.
I wasnt expelled, but my entertainment committee days came to a sudden
saw Hank Ballard at Atlantas Royal Peacock on Sweet Auburn Avenue.
I was joined at the bar by then-retired Atlanta deejay legend Alley
Pat Patrick. Through Hanks four shows that night, I reveled in
the raw power of his music and the irreverence of his lyrics. They were defiant
and white stations to this day rarely give them play.
The Dirty Boogie, a variation of Jitterbug, was invented by some decent soul
as a dance to accompany Hank Ballards music. It remains a perfect fit
and Im still looking for someone half my age that knows how to work
Hank Ballard was naughty on recordings and on the stage. In person, he was
the sweetest person imaginable. His contributions to popular music the world
over are immeasurable.
Thanks, Hank, for a lifetime of song, dance and laughter. Your music, which
contained not a single profane word, has the best lyrics in rock.